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Friday, May 29, 2009

What is a deputy?

Each diocese elects four clerical and four lay deputies for the House of Deputies. Alternates are elected, also, in case a deputy cannot serve or needs to take some time off during the course of the convention.

The dictionary defines deputy as: a person appointed or authorized to act as a substitute for another or others.

Those elected are acting as substitutes for the various dioceses. The General Convention, the governing body of this Church, meets every three years to deal with changes in canons (laws of the Church), the constitution and the program, mission and ministry of the Church. The Missouri deputies attend this meeting as "substitutes" for the entire membership of the diocese.

Deputies are not delegates. Delegates are: persons designated to act for or represent another or others. The assumption here is that delegates are given certain powers to represent a particular constituency's desires. Deputies have more latitude to vote their own conscience. This is important because often issues change or have to be negotiated, and a deputy has more latitude to deal with the changes than a delegate might have.

The General Convention is a bicameral (two house) legislative body. The House of Deputies is the upper or senior house. The House of Bishops is the lower house. Certain types of legislation must originate in the House of Deputies -- funding, for example. Liturgical items must first go to the House of Bishops. There are times when the two houses meet together, but that is only to receive reports and to hear from particular church bodies or individuals. The two houses never vote in a joint session. Each piece of legislation must pass each house in an identical form in order for it to be an action of the General Convention.

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